Photo Information

Petty Officer 3rd Class Bryan Williams, a religious program specialist serving with 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, and a native of Kansas City, Mo., checks a window for insurgents during the culminating field exercise of the Urban Leaders Course here, July 11, 2013. During the exercise, students in the course drew upon all their training to clear buildings as fire teams against instructors simulating insurgents.

Photo by Cpl. Timothy Lenzo

Urban Leaders Course equips Religious Program Specialists for combat

16 Jul 2013 | Cpl. Timothy Lenzo 1st Marine Division

Religious Program Specialists serving with various 1st Marine Division units participated in the Urban Leaders Course here, July 8.

The ULC focuses on infantry skills in urban environments including room clearing, fire and maneuvers, and military operations on urban terrain.

“Urban leaders course is designed to provide Marines with instruction and basic knowledge of military operations in urban terrain,” said Sgt. Jesse Pearson, the ULC chief instructor for Division Schools, 1st Marine Division. “We cover everything from convoys and foot mobile patrols to clearing buildings and urban shooting skills.”

The weeklong course is open to all units, but this week the instructors faced the unusual task of training RPs instead of infantrymen.

The students conducted a live-fire range with combat maneuvers that tested their ability to focus on a target with their heart rate pumping. Before the final range, the instructors took the students on a flak and Kevlar run to simulate an accelerated heart rate that someone might experience when taking enemy contact.

“Being with a grunt battalion, you have to keep up with them,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class David Wright, an RP serving with 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. “I think it’s a really great course because it gives us so much insight to being able to do a combatant job.”

The sailors then took the infantry training to the next level during a live-fire room clearing exercise. In teams of two, they entered a building, clearing out each room and firing on simulated insurgent targets. The RPs fired in close proximity to each other, while conducting infantry tactics.

With the sailors’ blood pumping the instructors emphasize three main points:

“Shoot, move and communicate,” said Pearson, a native of Livermore, Calif., and who served previously with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. “As long as you can shoot effectively, communicated effectively and move fluently, you should stay alive.”

The training culminated in a field exercise with the instructors role playing as insurgents and the RPs as fire teams. They went through different houses in a military operations on urban terrain range, clearing rooms and critiquing each other.

According to their mission, an RP’s job on the battlefield is a combatant. They are personal security for an unarmed chaplain.

“The chaplain is a non-combatant,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Jarrod Tesch, an RP serving with 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment. “He carries nothing, so we are there as that buffer between him and the enemy.”

The training to become a protector for the chaplain is vital to RPs prepping for a deployment.

Wright recently returned from Afghanistan with his battalion and is preparing to return next year.

“I would recommend this training to anyone who is deploying with a division unit,” said Wright, a native of Erin, Tenn. “It gives me more tools I can use, and I think this course is a must for RPs readying to deploy. 

“The instructors are extremely knowledgeable. They are always willing to answer any questions, and they’ve been in scenarios similar to these,” Wright added.

The students benefited from having these experienced and knowledgeable instructors as resources.

“The instructors are very thorough,” said Tesch, a native of Las Lunas, N.M. “They know what they are doing, and they are good at what they do. They have been tested in combat and have been very impressive through the course.”

The instructors hoped to pass on the lessons they learned to the sailors. While RPs are not their usual students, they understand their training can benefit anyone deploying.

“The RP is a proctor so hopefully they walk away with some good shooting tools,” Pearson said. “I think everyone needs some kind of good training, especially if they are going to deploy.”

1st Marine Division